Op-Ed: Anti-choice politicians adopt dangerous new tactics

A quiet assault at the state level.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

When a former reality TV star turned president of the United States is running an administration that resembles a massive dumpster fire, it’s hard to focus on much. When Trump is trying to pass religiously motivated travel bans, attacking judges, insulting our nation’s allies, and more, it can be difficult to remain aware of what else is happening around you — even in your own backyard.

Anti-choice politicians at the state level know this, and while they think we’re not looking, they’re pursuing dangerous new tactics in their assault on reproductive freedom. These days, state politicians don’t just want to defund Planned Parenthood or pass bills that would force the closure of dozens of abortion clinics in their states. Now, they’re implying that it’s okay for bosses and landlords to retaliate against people for their reproductive health care decisions.

Let me be explicit: these politicians suggest that your boss should be able to fire you, and your landlord should be able to evict you, for taking birth control. Or for being a single mom. Or for having an abortion. And no, this isn’t an exaggeration.

Just three weeks ago, anti-choice Gov. Eric Greitens (R) of Missouri called the state legislature back to the capital for a wasteful, unnecessary, taxpayer-funded “emergency” special session to try to impose new restrictions on reproductive health care, while decrying a St. Louis ordinance that protects women from discrimination for their reproductive health choices from both bosses and landlords. This session had nothing to do with the priorities of hard-working Missouri women and families and everything to do with controlling women and restricting our access to health care.

With 32 states governed by anti-choice legislatures, we can only expect that more politicians will take extraordinary measures to restrict women’s reproductive freedom.

It’s easy at times like these to feel truly hopeless, when your most basic right to control if, when, and how to have kids is under siege. But when we come together to fight back against these truly backwards proposals, we can win. And the numbers are on our side.

Seven in 10 Americans believe in access to legal abortion, and the majority of both men and women believe birth control should stay affordable and accessible. This makes grassroots activism more important than ever before. Across the country, ordinary people have been organizing in their own backyards, teaming up with friends, families, and neighbors to contact their representatives and stand up against attacks on reproductive health care. Activists have stormed state legislatures dressed as Handmaids, gone door to door in their neighborhood, and flooded Congress with phone calls to oppose the Republican health care plan. Now, many are getting ready to hold their leaders accountable during August recess.

This type of organizing works. Just last week, the California State Assembly passed a bill, with overwhelming support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, that would protect women from discrimination and keep bosses and landlords out of their reproductive decisions. In Nevada, where our progressive activists helped flip the state house from anti-choice to pro-choice in November, the state legislature passed the first pro-choice bill related to reproductive health care access in 18 years. This law codifies the birth control coverage benefit in our nation’s health care law, which means women in Nevada won’t have to pay out-of-pocket costs for birth control, even if Trump and anti-choice Republicans in Congress succeed in ripping apart that policy. Other states have passed similar laws to protect and expand birth control access, including laws that let a woman get up to 12 months of birth control at once.

If we want to make sure anti-choice politicians don’t drag us backward on the path toward gender equality and freedom, we need to rise up and call out Republican attempts to put a single-minded agenda ahead of our best interests. Now is the time to rally behind the true values of freedom and equality and to fight back against any and every attempt the anti-choice movement makes to hold women down as less than equal.

Kaylie Hanson Long is the National Communications Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.